public understanding

Microplastics, Liquid Nitrogen, and Iodine: Polystyrene vs. Starch Foam Packing Peanuts

The differing electrostatic and solubility properties of starch and polystyrene foam packing peanuts are used in various demonstrations to describe aspects of microplastics and their interactions with the environment. Their differing responses to exposure to liquid nitrogen and iodine solutions are also described.

Surveying Litter as a Citizen Science Chemistry Activity

During the last few semesters, a small survey has been deployed at Bradley University where students were to describe and classify items of litter that they found. The purposes of the surveys were to get students thinking about some of the chemical implications of solid waste and give the students some experience with a citizen science project. The most recent iteration of the survey, and some of its results, are described.

Explaining Scientific Research Communication in the Age of COVID-19

Students were asked to watch a short video that describes the ways scientific information is communicated, how those pathways usually function and how they were altered by the pandemic. Students were then asked to discuss a series of questions about experts, peer review, and the issue of releasing research results prior to peer review because of the urgent need for useful information related to the pandemic.